Monday, May 29, 2017

Humi Procumbere

     The rapidity of his blinking good eye did not change the specter before him, though he varied the rate. So many bodies...blink, blink...all those little kids...blink-blink-blink...all those wretched birds...long, slow blink...all blink, just a closed eye. He weaved as he toiled with the infinity of experiences that he’d suddenly become privy to when Iphi—that stupid bird, that phoenix—bit him. Nothing. Not one single scrap of her enlightenment existed to help him rationalize the Burning Grounds. “Why?” he croaked.
     Celatrix Verna stood behind him, one hand on his shoulder. She stared at the Burning Grounds with sad appreciation. The Bard was not the first person she’d taken for the Long Walk, and if Mercury was kind, he wouldn’t be the last. Likely the most important, she wagered. Such a simple word, why, she held her breath, closed her eyes, and exhaled. When she opened her eyes, she squeezed his shoulder and said, “Ministrae children are taught death, so they’ll better appreciate life.”
     “But...” he waved without enthusiasm.
     “They meditate.”
     “But...” he locked his thumbs together and flapped his hands.
     “Oh. The birds? They do Mercury’s work.”
     “But...” he flipped his thumb up and down over his closed fist.
     Her head tilted left as she attempted to figure out what he was signing.
     When she didn’t answer, he forcefully pulled his head away from the Burning Grounds turning until he could see her. With his thumb maniacally pumping, he finally managed, “fire?”
     Her head tilted a little further, before she righted it, closed her eyes, fire? and shook her head. “The pyres must never die,” she whispered.
     “But...” what ever he intended on saying disappeared. His head snapped forward and his arms slammed out, hands wavering slightly. With his eye closed, he began chanting.
     Struggling to understand, the Celatrix stepped forward. The effort was pointless. Kent grew loud enough to draw the curious gaze of the nearest hundred Ministrae children.

     Unable to continue ignoring his aching bladder, Adonis clambered out of the bunk bed. Even though he eased the door open, he was slapped in the face with garlic, onions, mushrooms, and a whole mess of glorious aromas. His stomach growled. A wave of pain shot from his bladder down his penis and back behind his eyes. He threw a hand out to the wall and slowly shuffled across the hallway. Man up, he ordered. How the fuck did you crawl out? Inside the bathroom, he gingerly pulled his pants down. Necessity. Don’t be stupid. The pain increased ten-fold upon seeing the bloodied gauze. Psycho bitch tried to cut my dick off! He refrained from screaming by biting his lip—hard—as he peeled the bandage off.

     “And, that’s why I need your help,” Commander Felis explained.
     Astra cocked back her head and purred, “so the royal pussy finally needs his feline family?”
     In that moment, he recalled all the reasons he hated her. Still jealous they picked me, he thought, smugly.
     “I didn’t have a choice,” he answered.
     “There’s always a choice,” she replied. With a flick of her tail, she exited the bay.
     “Dames, eh?” Milton chuckled.
     “You married her,” Samuel Felis pointed out.
     “Only after you shafted her,” said Milton, shaking his head.
     “I didn’t have a choice,” Sam repeated.
     “We’ve walked that path, nephew,” Milton replied. “You’ve got bigger problems than Astra’s latent dreams of ripping your throat out.”
     “Tell me about it,” Sam sighed.
     “Well, if you’re ready to go down that road,” Milton began, “then, you should know that we’ve restructured most of the family holdings. I doubt that you’ll recognize the difficulties you’re presenting me with.” Milton stretched out his front legs, curled his back, and yawned. “The legalities are too tedious to repeat.”
     “Unc! You know I’ll never betray the fam. I just need a lil’ info.”
     “Precisely,” Milton growled.
     “So. You won’t help?”
     “I would be remiss in my duties, if I failed to assist my family,” Milton stated.
     “Then, what’s the problem?”
     “You will be remiss in your duties, if I assist you, family.”
     “I don’t understand,” Samuel said.
     “You will.” Milton rolled his head and flattened his ears, an orange stripe ran from the tip of his right ear to the left side of his chin. He yawned, “come.”

     After arranging the sad, thin pillows and scratchy wool blankets over the two unconscious royals, Nina cleaned up their dinner mess. While cleaning up, she ordered the Merc out of her way. He sat down on the couch where Cassie had originally lain and there he worriedly stared at his charge. Nina watched the Merc’s face go from worried to horrifically suspicious as he upturned his hand and looked at it. The poor man turned pale and then hurried off the couch to the sink where he scrubbed his hand in a panic. Unable to resist, Nina crossed to the sink and stood to the left of the Merc. As he finished and with perverse pleasure, Nina asked, “did I miss a spot?”
     He jumped and then spun his head to look down at her with sheer disgust. He grunted, “blood.”
    “Oh!” Nina exclaimed as she took a step backward. She stumbled while turning and awkwardly fell. In one hand, she held a dirty rag which flagged her way down. After looking at her feet like the enemy, she stuck her hands under her butt and huffed her way back to standing. A slight smile upturned the corner of her mouth. Sheepishly, her eyes rose until she met the Merc’s softened gaze.
     “Are you alright?” he asked.
     “Just clumsy,” she shrugged.
     “Me too!” he confessed with a broad grin. “I once tripped over the rug at my Popper’s house. Crashed right into all Memmer’s collectibles.” Unconsciously, he rubbed the palms of his hands together. In that second, he looked through time to the glass shards and blood that had once marred them. Today, the scars were minute, practically invisible. Had to be there to see it, as they say. He bowed his head, “rest her soul. I bought her a new piece every Mercuralia. She loved all those silly little glass animals. Even named them.”

     Splashing cold water on his face, Adonis took a moment to observe the droplets fall through his two broken fingers and into the white marble sink. For a second, he imagined they were red droplets. Slowly lifting his head up, he met his own hollowed, vacant eyes. Shock, he reasoned until his gaze wandered to his burnt ear. I’m going to kill them, he promised himself with a skeletal grin. He leaned into the mirror, staring hard into his own eyes, his attention moving from one to the other. “Tomlyn. Prescott. You’re dead,” he snarled to the cosmos as he awkwardly turned the bathroom doorknob with his uninjured hand. The knob slipped twice before he managed to get the door open. When he did, he practically walked into Vorant, who shoved him into the door frame. He glared daggers into the brute’s back, before making his way down the hallway toward the kitchen and the amazingly good smells wafting about.
     “Fix your plate,” the Inquisitor ordered. He stood next to the stove, chopping vegetables, occasionally using the knife to push the butchered veg into the skillet.
     “What is it?” Adonis asked.
     “Dinner,” Jougs said, he shoved Adonis into the frame of the kitchen door, walked up to the stack of plates on the counter, took one and began shoveling noodles out of a large pot.
     When Jougs reached a spoon toward the skillet that the Inquisitor was still dropping vegetables into, the knife stopped at the man’s neck. “Not for you,” the Inquisitor ordered. He slowly turned his head toward Jougs. “Go on,” he nodded.
     He’s going to run into me, occurred to Adonis as Jougs was backing away. Though he had time to get out of the way, his feet refused to move. What ever instinct caused him to throw up his left hand to stave off the impact proved to be the single worst thing he’d done since hiring the Inquisitor. Upon impact the two men stumbled back, Jougs caught himself in the door. Holding his injured hand to his chest, Adonis flailed his good hand as he stumbled past the hallway where Vorant stood laughing. In pain, Adonis yelled, “Mooncalf! Cum guzzling cock wobble!”.

     The two cats stood on the roof of the abandoned auto shop. The air hung, thick, as if placed by a billion syringes and held in place by the perfect frequency. “Tell Briar, he’s back,” Astra hissed.
     An exceedingly fluffy tan cat looked at one paw, flexed, and then put it down, “ballsy S.O.B., ain’t he?”
     “Mmhm,” Astra murmured, her tail whipped back and forth.
     “Does he know?”
     She ignored the question.
     “You’re gonna surprise him?” He shook his head, tufts waved. “Poor bastard.”
     Her head snapped at him. With urgency and hatred, she said, “don’t you feel sorry for him! Not for one minute! He had a choice. Listen Cheddar, you’ve got to promise me. Briar. You’ll tell Briar and no one else.”
     “I gotchya, kinfolk,” Cheddar chuckled.
     “Briar,” she repeated.
     “I know. I know,” he grumbled, disappearing into the fog.
     “Briar,” she called out one more time. After her brother-in-law’s heavy footfalls faded, she carefully made her way to the rooftop access door, where she’d first sighted Samuel. Pulling the door, she crept down stairs that opened into the back corner of the auto bay near the hallway. She paused, out-of-sight, but able to hear. Straining, she nearly tumbled down the remaining stairs. The only noise she heard was the slow scraping of the bottle top that the twins lazily batted around. She sped down the stairs and slid into the room fast enough to catch Nacho off-guard.
     The old cat leapt, hissed, and then glared at her.
     “Where’d they go?” she demanded.
     “Fuck off, Astra,” he growled as he climbed back onto the chaise.

     Fulco fluttered down, skipping and hopping along Kent’s prone body. The bird climbed up the Bard’s pant leg, using his beak to pull and pinch the denim. When he was on Kent’s chest, he dug his front nails into the young man’s clavicles, and screeched. Kent’s upper body spring-boarded up, and Fulco flew-fell, wings flapping uselessly.
     “Get the fuck off me!” Kent yelled, his hands wildly slapping at Fulco’s panicked scrambling feet.
     “Easy,” Celatrix Verna warned. “Language.”
     “Nope. No way!” Kent declared. He pushed himself off the temple’s marbled floor and turned his torso toward her. “I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. And. This is it.” He jammed his eye closed and shook his head. When he looked at her again, she seemed older.
     “You’re in a sacred place. Don’t profane it,” she ordered softly. “Places have memories.”
     “Yeah? Yeah? Well so do people,” he waved over his shoulder, “like those countless poor souls out there. Fodder for childhood contemplation. Like there’s nothing horrific in being devoured by birds or burned to ash.”
     “These ‘poor’ souls are honored dead. They give comfort to the children of the Ministrae, nourishment to Mercury’s sacred birds, and protection to the realm. Take care, with your temper, Bard Kent, this land is holy.”
     The incredulity dripped off his face, he sputtered and stopped a couple times before he forced himself to calmly say, “my apologies, Celatrix.”

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